There's A Phenomenal Baseball Debate About Who Should Be Named Starting Pitcher For The NL All Star Team

All Star rosters got announced this weekend so here's a blog breaking down the bigger stories for the National League. Let's assume you're a casual fan that pays attention to your local team but not much else, if anything. 

In that case, a good starting point is the pitching. There's generally 3 names people are talking about as starters. Zach Wheeler would be included but he's scheduled to start Sunday before the break. So keeping him out leaves us with 3 completely different choices. 

- I want to give the ball to Chris Sale because he's the most deserving over his career. All Star game starts are special and I'm inclined to lean to Sale in his 14th season. Especially given its his 1st healthy season in 5-6 years and many considered him long gone. 

- The same could be said for Reynaldo Lopez's career as a starter. Nobody except the Braves and maybe Reynaldo himself could have anticipated this career rebound. In 4 years and 81 starts for the White Sox, Lopez posted a 4.76 ERA with a 2.2 k/bb ratio and a near 1.4 WHIP. Then off to the bullpen for three seasons (21-23) where he recovered a career path, only to get another chance to start this year for the Braves. It's been a remarkable turnaround even if Statcast thinks it's fugazi.

- Good luck or bad luck, there's no denying Reynaldo Lopez has allowed the least amount of earned runs per nine innings pitched. That should dominate the statistics discussion but is it enough to overcome the national storyline of Paul Skenes? 

- Skenes has been nothing short of sensational in his first 10 starts. He's also the 1st player to be drafted 1st overall and make an all star game the following year. That makes sense over the last decade+ but how in MLB history has that not happened sooner? Small sample size but nonetheless a real testament to Skenes's immediate impact. The numbers are even more alarming. 

- Through 10 starts and compared to all other NL pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched this season (75 total), Skenes ranks: 

1st in K/9, LOB%, 4-seam velocity, xFIP, k/BB rate

2nd in ERA, WAR/start, xERA, K%

Top 10 in BB/9, FIP, BB%, WHIP

- Most of those stats isolate the hitter/pitcher relationship and illustrate his dominance. The big thing holding him back is innings pitched, which would make the debate a lot simpler if he started opening day. 

- At the same time, if your grandma had balls she would be your grandpa. And since Skenes doesn't have the starts then I'm inclined to start Sale in a slight edge over Lopez. 

End of the day, you can't go wrong with any of these 3 storylines. There's a 1st ballot hall of famer that's rebounded to the glory days. We've got a legendary career comeback from Reynaldo Lopez that's shocked the baseball world. And then finally one of the most talented prospects in MLB history already asserting himself as the game's best. 

In other words, they're all winners so congratulations on a great 1st half. 

Some other observations on the NL All Star roster: 

- The Phillies are awesome. Simple but true and important to remember this time of year. John Middleton paid for superstars and he's being rewarded on a consistent basis with major success for fans. 

- Ketel Marte in the starting lineup is a sign that baseball fans are smart enough to be decent and objective people. In a world of chaos, that gives me the right amount of hope. 

- Reserves:

- At 30,000 feet - I've never loved the All Star designation. It carries so much weight historically but never accounts for a full season. To categorize a player as a being great because of all star appearances objectively ignores the two most important months any regular reason. I concede this is a small inconvenience but an inconvenience to me regardless. If anything, I simply ask you keep this nuance in mind next time you cite all star appearances as a means of validation. 

- Pete Alonso should not be an all star this year. He's a great draw for the derby, but is closer to the Cubs' Michael Busch than Freddie Freeman or Bryce Harper. Even more alarming is that Francisco Lindor got passed in his favor, allegedly. Manfred is a diehard Mets' fan so don't hesitate to speculate league interference when it's this backwards. Why? I don't know other than Christian Walker from the Diamondbacks got fuckin hosed on behalf of Pete Alonso. 


- Going one step further, there's no comparison this season to the other 1B all stars.

- This is a perfect example of the All Star Game bias. 

- I don't know if the same could be said for Luis Arraez for Brice Turang. There are angry Brewers fans despite already having two starters in Yelich and William. Arraez makes it as a reserve and it's got some folks mad

- I'm making a lot more of these player comparisons that I anticipated but they're good exhibits. In this case, Turang is clearly the better player through the first half of the season. And absent from the comparison is defense where Turang leads the NL with a 1.7 dWAR. 

- I would rather call Turang a snub without having to include Arraez in the conversation. I don't know if that's possible as they play the same position. But Arraez leads the NL in total hits, is the back-to-back batting title champ in different leagues and will have 1,000 hits before the end of next season. Anyone with a brain knows he's one of the best pure hitters in the world. How do we not include him in a showcase of the game's best talent? 


- And now an argument for the All Star bias. Are we rewarding guys who've had good 1st halves? Or are we showcasing the league's talent? One of these considerations needs to be more important than the other and I don't know if the baseball world agrees on which one. Personally I think it should be closer to a reward than a showcase but that exposes me to the morons that think the All Star Game is fractionally-comparable to the playoffs with respect to growing the game

- Heliot Ramos makes the All Star game after spending the first month of the season in the minors. He's a top 100 prospect with a lot of experience in Futures Games (3 appearances). He gets a nod over Giants' catcher Patrick Bailey which is surprising because Bailey is awesome. But so is Heliot Ramos and that shouldn't be ignored. He's got a monster bat and should be a significant problem for a long time.


- I'm already long winded but want to circle back on the rest of the pitchers because it should be encouraging for baseball fans, generally. Most of these guys flew under the radar drastically at some point. Most of these guys were acquired reasonably and prudently before ascending to All Star caliber. Guys like Jeff Hoffman and Matt Strahm and Robert Suarez and Tanner Scott had to come a long way to get here. So again congratulations to those guys. 

Closing Thoughts

I want the All Star game to be more meaningful but not to the extent that it dictates anything serious. That's why I think the winning team should get a say in the TV schedule for playoffs. Losing league can play the day games in the Wild Card and Divisional round. Winning league gets the night games and the bigger tv audience. Probably a horrible business idea but it would be funny to see Yankee stadium at 11:30am central against the Kansas City Royals. 

Just a thought. 

I'm open to better suggestions.

PS - If anything changed about pitcher availability between the time I wrote this and published this, I am sorry. Please don't take it personally.